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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

From Today's Papers - 18 Feb 2015

Ukraine truce fades as battle rages
Fighting intense around rail town of Debaltseve | OSCE monitors seek better access
Nikishine, February 17
Pro-Russian rebels and government forces fought street-to-street in a strategic town in east Ukraine on Tuesday and refused to pull back their heavy guns, all but scuppering hopes that a European-brokered peace deal will end months of conflict.

Two days after a truce went into effect, the agreement reached at all-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk last Thursday was unravelling rapidly.

The Moscow-backed rebels say the ceasefire does not apply to the main battle front at the town of Debaltseve, astride a railway hub, where they have a Ukrainian military garrison surrounded. They have continued an all-out assault.

Kiev acknowledged that rebels had fought their way into the town and captured some of its troops defending it. Both sides had been due to being withdrawing heavy guns on Tuesday, but Kiev says it cannot do so as long as the rebels show no sign of halting their advance.

Reuters journalists near the snowbound front line said artillery rounds rocked Debaltseve every five seconds and black smoke rose skywards as Grad rockets pounded the town.

"Eighty percent of Debaltseve is already ours," said Eduard Basurin, a rebel leader. "A cleanup of the town is under way.

Kiev's military denied the town, which had a peacetime population of 25,000 but is now a bombed-out wasteland, had fallen but acknowledged losing control of some of it. Some Ukrainian soldiers had been captured, it said, but denied rebel reports that up to 300 had surrendered or been taken prisoner.

Kiev and NATO say the rebel military operation to take Debaltseve is being carried out with the assistance of tanks, artillery and soldiers from Russia's army. Moscow denies that it has sent its forces to participate in battle for territory that President Vladimir Putin has referred to as "New Russia". t that has killed more than 5,000 people were always low after a rebel advance in January ended an earlier truce.

But the ferocity of the fighting at Debaltseve was unexpected and has heightened concerns in Kiev and the West that the separatists and Putin want to cement the latest rebel gains before allowing any peace to take hold.

Observers from the OSCE security group, tasked with monitoring the ceasefire under last week's agreement, had hoped to gain access to the besieged town, but were barred from entering by the rebels. A new call for peace by Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel was the driving force behind the peace deal after marathon diplomacy last week, fell on deaf ears.

In Kiev, Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko, in a decree, set out the timetable f

Hopes that the deal reached last Thursday would end a conflicor the next rounds of military call-up for the rest of the year for men up to 27 years of age. — Reuters

Withdrawal of big guns stalls

    The leader of one of the two rebel-held regions in the east, Luhansk, said separatist fighters had started
    withdrawing heavy weapons. But there was no sign of
    this in areas held by separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic
    Ukraine's military reiterated in Kiev that its forces could not pull back their big guns until there was a total truce
    The European Union kept pressure on Russia and the rebels by announcing a new list of separatists and Russians targeted with sanctions on Monday. Moscow promised an "adequate" response

EU calls for withdrawal of heavy arms

    The European Union on Tuesday called for the immediate pull-back of heavy weapons from the frontline in eastern Ukraine and voiced concern about the surge in fighting in a key flashpoint town
    “We recall once again the need for all sides to adhere strictly to the provisions of the package signed last week and carry out its measures without delay,” European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray said
    Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels have to start the withdrawing of heavy weaponry, she said
    The EU also voiced concern that the work of monitors was being hindered after observers were refused access to Debaltseve
Woman IAF officer makes it to ‘Sarang
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17

When ‘Aero India’ takes off in Bengaluru on Wednesday, Squadron Leader Deepika Misra will literally ‘fly into history’. She will become the first and the only woman pilot to make it to the Sarang helicopter acrobatic display team of the Indian Air Force.

Squadron Leader Misra has the responsibility as the team safety officer. The Sarang team, which performs at leading air shows across the world, made its mark in the rescue operation during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods.

It will perform at the Aero India tomorrow. World-acclaimed aerobatics teams — Breitling Wingwalkers (US), Scandinavian Air Show, Flying Bulls from Czech Republic, Yakovlevs formation display team from UK — are set to perform.

Sarang team has the unique distinction of being one of the only two helicopter display teams in the world, the other being ‘Blue Eagles’ of the British Army. The helicopters have been painted in bright colours with the peacock form superimposed on them. “It attempts to symbolise the beauty and grace of the peacock during the display,” explains Sarang Team Leader, Wing Commander AS Abhyankar. A qualified flying instructor and now Commanding Officer of the outfit, the return to Aero India for Wg Cdr Abhyankar first flew in the 2003 Aero India edition as a young Flight Lieutenant.

Apart from the two Sarang leaders, other team members include Wing Commanders Vinod Negi, the deputy Team Leader, Wing Commander S Saravanavel, Wing Commander PR Ponnappa, Squadron Leaders G Komar, AS Pawar, SK Mishra, Milind Londhe, Daish, Deepika Misra and SS Barsing, who is the latest entrant to the team.
Foreign Secy may visit Pak in March

Afzal Khan in Islamabad
The Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has indicated that Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar may visit Pakistan in March.

Speaking during a programme on Geo News, Aziz said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the Indian Foreign Secretary would visit Pakistan and the visit would take place in March.
Modi on February 13 had called four members of SAARC, namely Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, to wish them well for the Cricket World Cup 2015. Modi had also announced that Jaishankar would be sent on a “SAARC yatra” to further strengthen the ties.
This courtesy call by Modi to the Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif is seen as an attempt to reduce the differences between the two nations. The Foreign Secretary’s visit has reignited speculations that it would revive the stalled bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan. Aziz said the dialogue with India would be held on all issues and Kashmir would feature in the India-Pakistan talks’ agenda.
BSF man shoots colleague, flees
Malda (WB), February 17

In a suspected case of fratricide, a BSF man today allegedly opened fire at the force’s camp near here today, killing a colleague and injuring four others. The suspect is at large.

Director General BSF, Malda Sector, Raj Singh Rathore, said a BSF personnel belonging to 20 Battalion posted at 17 Mile near Farakka, opened fire killing one security man on the spot. Four others, who sustained injuries, were taken to a private nursing home in Malda town, he said.

Officials said the suspected fratricidal incident occurred at the Farrakka battalion camp of the BSF when constable Basant Singh allegedly fired on his fellow personnel who were asleep.

While Head Constable Moolchand succumbed to his injuries on the spot inside the camp, the injured taken to the hospital include constables Kamal Basa, SK Prabhakar and Surender.

“All have bullet injuries fired from the INSAS rifle,” officials said. Singh (35) is on the run and a manhunt has been launched to nab him, they said. — PTI
Aero India: Israeli Defence Minister's Visit could See India Sign Deals Worth $1.5 Bn
India and Israel are likely to finalise a major defence deal, which would see two more Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control system) and four aerostat radars, in a deal worth almost $1.5 billion or ₹9,330 crore.
Israel's defence minister Moshe Ya'alon will visit Bangalore for the Aero-India show (18-22 February) and will be accompanied by the director-general Major General (retd) Dan Harel and the CEOs of major Israeli defence companies. During the visit, he will meet with India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar.

Ya'alon's visit is the first such visit by an Israeli minister, since the two nations set up full diplomatic ties in 1992. India for long has kept the long-standing policy of expansive bilateral military ties under wraps, worried about international and domestic political sensitivities.

Israel today ranks amongst India's top three defence equipment suppliers, the other two being US and Russia.

Israeli Weapons

Since the Kargil War of 1999, Israel has supplied India with Harop "killer" drones, Crystal Maze precision-guided munitions, Heron and Searcher UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), Green Pine radars to Python and Derby air-to-air missiles, and the two countries have also worked together on many projects. The Israeli supply of weaponry is said to have cost India almost $10 billion.
The finance ministry recently allocated funds for the acquisition for two more Phalcon AWACS.

The AWACS have a 400 km range and a 360 degree sweep coverage, which allows detection of airborne enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and drones, much before ground-based radar can. The AWACS also acts as a potent force-multiplier, by directing air defence planes and missiles to be directed at enemy air force.

"The CNC (contract negotiations committee) has been concluded. After the finance ministry, it will be sent to the cabinet committee on security for the final nod," EconomicTimes quoted a source as saying.

India currently has three Israeli made Phalcon AWACS fitted onto Russian IL-76 aircraft. The tripartite deal in 2004 saw India, Israel and Russia come together under the $1.1 billion contract.

Indian Weapons Contracts

India is poised to finalise four additional aerostat radars – sensors mounted on large balloons tethered to the ground. India already has two EL/M-2083 radars, bought from Israel in 2004-2005 for $145 million.

India recently agreed to acquire 250 Israeli Spice missiles, an stand-off autonomous air-to-ground weapon system for fighter jets and also Heron medium altitude, long endurance UAVs.

It rejected a hard-sell by US for its Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), choosing to go with the initial purchase of 321 Israeli Spike ATGM launchers and 8,356 missiles at a cost of ₹3,200 crore.

With the US continuing to offer India the chance to co-develop and co-produce the next generation of Javelin ATGMs, India could go to Israel for its large-scale indigenous manufacture of ATGMs by the state-owned Bharat Dynamics.

The Indian Army has chosen to equip its 382 infantry battalions and 44 mechanised infantry units with ATGMs to counterbalance enemy tanks and other military infrastructure.

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